The reduction will bring the daily purse level for the last 50 days of the 100-day live racing meet from the current average of $89,000 per day to an average of $66,000 per day, saving the track over $1 million for the remainder of the season. Suffolk Downs expects to generate approximately $8 million in purses this season based on contributions to purses from handle mandated by Massachusetts’ statute.
“This reduction will have a significant negative impact on our more than 800 members as we strive to preserve the Thoroughbred racing & breeding industry in New England and all the related agri-business and economic benefits it provides,” said Al Balestra, president of the New England Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “It will clearly cost jobs on the Suffolk Downs’ backstretch and at Massachusetts farms and suppliers and my concern is that this will force more of our members to leave here to race in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia and other states that have the benefit of expanded gaming at their racetracks.”
For each of the last three years, track ownership has paid purses well above the minimum required by Massachusetts’ law as part of its commitment to live racing.
Suffolk Downs paid $10.9 million in purses in 2006. New ownership increased purses to $12.1 million in 2007 and $11.9 million in 2008. A reduction last year brought 2009 purses down to $9.8 million.
Even with the reduction, Suffolk Downs expects to operate at a substantial deficit in 2010 and management is looking at additional cost-saving measures, officials indicated.